Sunday, December 16, 2007

So much blood and the next day there was nothing

This woman approaches the bus stop at Powell and Market, looking both ways but she doesn't look drugged out -- more just scared. She says have you been waiting long? No -- she says I don't like waiting here, it's a dangerous corner. We’re right across the street from the Abercrombie store and the newly-renovated San Francisco Center with a flagship Bloomingdale's, but I don't think that's what she's talking about. She says just the other night I was walking up the stairs and there was this guy lying on the ground and there was blood everywhere, oh there was so much blood I asked the cops what had happened, did someone gets shot, they didn't know I mean it's not their job to tell me it's just there was so much blood, I mean you only have so much blood, right?

Her eyes are big like she's reliving it right now and just from our eyes I start to feel it too. I say did the cops beat him up, she says no, not the cops, someone had hit him over the head on that stairwell right there, and she points to her right I turn that way it is actually kind of dark there. She says there was so much blood and then the next day there was nothing, they had washed it all off it didn't used to be like this in San Francisco -- I love this city, but it just didn't used to be like this -- the other day someone got shot on Cyril Magnin. Cryril Magnin, I say -- she says yes, right there on your Cyril Magnin, you didn't hear about it? It was all over the TV because now they crossed the line -- before it was just the Tenderloin, that's why they've got cop cars right over there but I don't feel comfortable standing out here too long, what does that say -- 14 minutes and 33 minutes, 12:14 and 12:33? I say but that thing lies a lot, who knows how long we have to wait.

Cyril Magnin is a two-block street that connects Market to O'Farrell, two blocks of nothing but hotels. I wonder if that was the night I heard all the gunshots and someone screaming too, this woman says now the cops are cracking down, just the other night I saw them beating up this 19-year-old girl. I say that's not going to help anything -- the reason there’s more violence is because the cops are beating everyone up in other neighborhoods, so now a lot of those people are coming to the Tenderloin. This woman says well, she was dealing drugs. I say that doesn't matter, there are always people dealing drugs in the Tenderloin, right?

There's an irony in the fact that this woman, who's black and a bit older than me and middle-class in appearance but probably not reality, wants my assurance that the cops might lend her some kind of safety and I'm unwilling to provide that illusion, even while I share some of her worries about the increasing violence in our neighborhood. I want to ask her if she thinks what’s changed is that gangs have moved into the Tenderloin, but then suddenly there's a bus that surprises us, and the arrival monitor still says 13 minutes. It takes me a few minutes to get used to the toxic fumes in the brand new bus, one of the ones with tiny windows way up high that no one ever opens, and anyway it's always hard to continue a conversation with someone you don't know, once you get on the bus -- when I look around for her, she's already gone.

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